Sunday, January 22, 2017

Vesta, the king of the asteorids

This is Vesta, the biggest asteroid in the asteroid belt, after Ceres, promoted to the dwarf planet category in 2006.  It does not look like much compared with the moon, but if that “tiny” rock was on the surface of the earth, it would occupy the land of a whole country like Belgium and would stand from the earth past the orbit of the ISS.

Vesta reached opposition on the 17 of January, but I did not have the chance to see it  until the night of the 20-21. Right after midnight, I went to my usual spot to do some stargazing. About 60% of the sky was covered by a thin layer of smoggy haze due to a big fire that burned during that afternoon, so I felt it was a waste of time to put together the scope. Gemini was high in the sky,  so I was not able to use the binoculars on the tripod. Instead, I spotted the asteroid while I was lying on the ground looking up. Both Pollux, the orange giant star and Vesta were at at opposite edges of the FOV. Vesta was making a pyramid shape with 3 more stars of  6th and 7th magnitude and it seemed as bright as the 6th magnitude ones. 

On the same day at 21 hours I make the second observation. I went to the north of the city trying to escape from the smoky sky, but it was still affected by few thin layers of clouds. Despite the mediocre transparency I could see stars of about  ̴4.20 magnitude close to Gemini. Vesta had traveled couple of Arc minutes to the west, still close to the reference stars I used the previous night.

I put together both observations in a GIF in an attempt to show the path of the asteroid in two nights. I hope you find this useful in your search of the Asteroid and wish you a good time looking at the sky.



Edited by: Jennifer Steinberg (editor in chief)


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